MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Cultural Phenomena

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Culture Lag

Which of the following represents a key source of social conflict as a result of culture lag?

Possible Answers:

Different cultures develop at different paces, with faster development resulting in greater prestige

The development of items in material culture frequently lags behind the needs demonstrated by the norms of non-material culture

As culture changes from one generation to the next, the cultural relevance of older individuals begins to lag behind modern cultural norms

All of these are examples of culture lag that readily result in social conflict

Rapid advancement in material culture contradicts the inherent resistance to change in non-material culture

Correct answer:

Rapid advancement in material culture contradicts the inherent resistance to change in non-material culture

Explanation:

"Culture lag" is a term specifically addressing technological advancement and detailing the inherent delay between the innovation of new technology and its acceptance and integration into cultural norms. During a period of culture lag, a new element of material culture is presented and the non-material culture (often resistant to change) must take time to adapt.

Example Question #1 : Culture Lag

Excerpt from "The Chicago Employment Agency and the Immigrant Worker," Grace Abbott, American Journal of Sociology 1908 14:3289-305 

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, immigrants poured into the United States without knowledge of English or American customs. They were also usually unaware of the local cost of living or typical wage. These immigrants turned to employment agencies that would help them find work, for a fee. The extreme dependence of immigrants on the employment agencies coupled with their general ignorance of the American system brought about an ethical dilemma for the employment agent in which it became very easy to take advantage of people seeking a job. This resulted in an extreme prejudice directed at immigrants by the American employment system. A study was conducted in the early 1900s gauged the degree of corruption among employment agents and the results of this study have been provided (see Tables 1, 2, and 3)

Table 1

Table1

Table 2

Table2

Table 3

 Table3

An immigrant who becomes overwhelmed by the fast-paced American lifestyle would be experiencing which of the following? 

Possible Answers:

All of these

Cultural lag

Culture shock

Counterculture

Correct answer:

Culture shock

Explanation:

Culture shock describes negative feelings that a person has when adjusting to a new culture. In contrast, cultural lag refers to the notion that a society takes time to adjust to technological or social changes. This scenario gives no indication of societies changing, only the effect of a new culture on one immigrant. A counterculture describes a rebellious or contradictory way of thinking or acting. 

Example Question #1 : Cultural Phenomena

Which of these answers is an example of cultural assimilation? 

Possible Answers:

Eating snack foods

Dancing the Brazilian Samba in Japan

Learning a foreign language

Native Americans cut their long hair to look more like white individuals

A young child's ability to learn new vocabulary

Correct answer:

Native Americans cut their long hair to look more like white individuals

Explanation:

Cultural assimilation is the process of adopting elements from another culture. Thus, the correct answer is a Native American changing his hairstyle to reflect the hairstyle of white people. It is the less powerful culture that most often adapts to the more powerful culture.

Example Question #1 : Cultural Phenomena

Jimmy and Nate both volunteer at the dog pound. Jimmy loves animals of all kinds and loves the chance to be around dogs. Nate doesn’t particularly like animals, but he needs service hours for a club he is in at school. 

Jimmy recently watched a television program about Korea. The show ran a segment on a restaurant that served dog meat as a main dish. When jimmy saw this part of the program, he was horrified. Which of the following best describes Jimmy’s viewpoint and subsequent reaction?

Possible Answers:

Stereotype

Discrimination

None of these

Ethnocentric

Correct answer:

Ethnocentric

Explanation:

“Ethnocentrism” can be described as the act of judging another culture by one’s own standards. Jimmy’s horror associated with viewing Koreans eating dogs in the program is based on his own experiences and his inability to view the world through the eyes of those individuals in the program. If this situation described a stereotype, then it would have detailed over-generalized notions or ideas about a group, position or other thing. Discrimination is treating someone differently than others because of a characteristic, such as religion or race, and not necessarily merits. 

Example Question #1 : Cultural Phenomena

Excerpt from "The Social Problems of American Farmers" by Kenyon L. Butterfield, 1905

Butterfield, Kenyon L. "The Social Problems of American Farmers." American Journal of Sociology 10.5 (1905): 606-22.

 

Perhaps the one great underlying social difficulty among American farmers is their comparatively isolated mode of life. The farmer's family is isolated from other families. A small city of perhaps twenty thousand population will contain from four hundred to six hundred families per square mile, whereas a typical agricultural community in a prosperous agricultural state will hardly average more than ten families per square mile. The farming class is isolated from other classes. Farmers, of course, mingle considerably in a business and political way with the men of their trading town and county seat; but, broadly speaking, farmers do not associate freely with people living under urban conditions and possessing other than the rural point of view. It would be venturesome to suggest very definite generalizations with respect to the precise influence of these conditions, because, so far as the writer is aware, the psychology of isolation has not been worked out. But two or three conclusions seem to be admissible, and for that matter rather generally accepted.

The well-known conservatism of the farming class is doubtless largely due to class isolation. Habits, ideas, traditions, and ideals have long life in the rural community. Changes come slowly. There is a tendency to tread the well-worn paths. The farmer does not easily keep in touch with rapid modern development, unless the movements or methods directly affect him. Physical agencies which improve social conditions, such as electric lights, telephones, and pavements, come to the city first. The atmosphere of the country speaks peace and quiet. Nature's routine of sunshine and storm, of summer and winter, encourages routine and repetition in the man who works with her…

There is time to brood over wrongs, real and imaginary. Personal prejudices often grow to be rank and coarse-fibered. Neighborhood feuds are not uncommon and are often virulent. Leadership is made difficult and sometimes impossible. It is easy to fall into personal habits that may mark off the farmer from other classes of similar intelligence, and that bar him from his rightful social place.

It would, however, be distinctly unfair to the farm community if we did not emphasize some of the advantages that grow out of the rural mode of life. Farmers have time to think, and the typical American farmer is a man who has thought much and often deeply. A spirit of sturdy independence is generated, and freedom of will and of action is encouraged. Family life is nowhere so educative as in the country. The whole family cooperates for common ends, and in its individual members are bred the qualities of industry, patience, and perseverance. The manual work of the schools is but a makeshift for the old-fashioned training of the country-grown boy. Country life is an admirable preparation for the modern industrial and professional career.

The tendency of a farmer to “not easily keep in touch with rapid modern development” may seem strange to a teenage boy raised in a suburban community where technology is utilized in almost all daily actions. This labelling of the farmer’s actions as “strange” would be due to which of the following?

Possible Answers:

Affluenza

Cultural relativism

Discrimination

Ethnocentrism

Correct answer:

Ethnocentrism

Explanation:

The teenager’s judgement of the farmer’s tendency is based on his own suburban cultural experience. Judging the actions of another in the context of one’s own culture is known as ethnocentrism. Discrimination would drive the boy to make an institutional policy against the farmer, not merely think he was strange. Cultural relativism would meant that the boy would judge the farmer by a farmer’s standards. Affluenza is a legal term describing an inability to understand one’s actions because of a privileged upbringing.  

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